Youth make Hoffman Square come alive

Joyce Makhade. Photo: Nomaqhawe Mtebele

The Free State Department of Health in conjunction with LoveLife, hosted a day of games, exercise and dance right in the centre of the Bloemfontein CBD today.

The youth event was part of a two day programme that started yesterday on Mandela Day when a flash mob amazed and thrilled passers-by at the ever busy Hoffman Square.

The main event took place today when the department invited youth orientated non-profit organisations to inform as well as involve the public on issues such as teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and gender based violence. Members of the public stopped to watch as LoveLife Groundbreakers took part in games and aerobics. The crowd was also entertained with music.

According to the department’s Joyce Makhade, the programme “She Conquers” was the highlight of the event as they were targeting girls and women between the ages of 10 and 24. Makhade is involved with school and health programmes to assist young girls with challenges that they may face.

“The ‘She Conquers’ programme has been rolled out in all districts of the province but Mangaung and Lejweleputswa are the main areas. We have found that there are high rates of teenage pregnancies as well as new HIV infections,” explained Makhade.

Makhade said that the programme also seeks to prevent girls from dropping out of school. “We want to prevent teenage pregnancy and keep young girls in school. So even if they may fall pregnant we encourage them to stay in school and finish their school careers,” she said. This will ensure that they have better opportunities to attend tertiary institutions or develop skills beyond school, according to Makhade.

Activism against gender based violence was also championed as it played a role in the occurrence of teenage pregnancies and HIV infection rates. “The causes of new infections can be attributed to the rape and sexual coercion of girls. What we have also discovered is that the age group with the most new infections correlate with an older age group of men,” she stated.

Young people and other members of the public were encouraged to get tested for HIV, diabetes, and TB at the event. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele